Posted: Mon, 11 June 2012
RIDING THE OLD SANTA FE TRAIL
Our Morning Rides in Santa Fe:
It was along the Old Santa Fe Trail in the early 1800’s that wagon trains from Missouri came into town opening trade into what had been a very insular Spanish Colony...and forever changing Santa Fe’s destiny. The Trail became an important trade route and played an important role in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. When the railroad reached Santa Fe, the the trains replaced the Trail. Pave remnants of the Old Santa Fe Trail exist today.
We chose a bike ride that began at the spot where the Old Santa Fe Trail ended--the Plaza at the center of town. It is a 20 mile round trip with some heavy climbs, very light traffic, scenic views of one of the city’s finest neighborhoods, and a rewarding view of the city below.
The paved road ends 10 miles from the Plaza, where it turns to dirt. Here we turn around and reverse course. It is a shorter ride, but challenging in parts...and fun. We have done it for 3 days straight now; adding miles on Rail Trails to supplement the Trail ride. Santa Fe has provided some excellent cycling options for us.
Museum Hill on the Old Santa Fe Trail is a cluster of 4 well respected museums of Spanish, Indian, and International Art, along with some interesting outdoor sculptures. We always stopped here on our route.
We participated in the Farmer’s Market of Santa Fe, a major event each Sunday and Tuesday. The local farms present their produce in abundance, while the crafts folks, and speciality retailers man their tented and numerous booths.
The Rail Trail system in Santa Fe is extensive and inter-connected. we could bike from the house and immediately select 2 of the longer trails: one along the active Santa Fe Railroad line, and the other following an arroyo on a pathway around town.
Our mornings have been for cycling, while Cris and Alan hiked. The afternoons and evenings are for visiting the sights and landmarks of this city.
Check tomorrow for “The Sights of Santa Fe”!
Posted: Sun, 10 June 2012
BANDELIER NATIONAL PARK and LOS ALAMOS, NM
Thursday night’s Birthday Party for Patti was a wonderful event for all of us who had made the trip to Santa Fe; well organized, great food and a fun group!
On Friday morning June 8th we gathered at the Loretto Hotel and headed off to Bandelier National Park and Los Alamos in a car convoy. Joyce and I drove as we were familiar with the route from our bike ride yesterday.
Bandelier National park covers 33,000 acres in New Mexico’s Frijoles Canyon and was a settlement of the ancestral Pueblo Indian people thousands of years ago. The steep canyon walls were formed by violent eruptions of the Jemez Volcano more than a million years ago. the volcanic ash compacted and formed a soft crumbly rock, easily eroded by wind and rain. Over time the rock takes on a “Swiss Cheese” appearance. The Pueblos used tools to enlarge some of the openings in the cliff face for their dwellings. Our female Park Ranger guide was half Apache and half Pueblo and provided great insight into the ways and culture of the early Indians.
We continued to hike along the cliff dwellings---Cris and Joyce climbed into one dwelling for an appraisal. Animal petroglyphs appeared on some of the canyon walls.
Bandelier is a National Park of expansive natural beauty, offering stunning vistas of geological formations and an archeological wealth of information on ancestral native people. Even the ride to and from the Park is breathtaking. One can see gigantic vertical rock formations and cliffs, diverse color variations in the layered rock, and deep canyons cut through the rock. Bandelier National Park is “must see”; a bucket list destination!
“Los Alamos , situated atop steep walled mesas at the fooot of the Jemez Mountaints, offers some of the most awe-inspiring vistas anywhere”, according to their Visitors Guide...and me! We saw them yesterday on the bikes.
In 1943 Albert Einstein wrote to FDR suggesting the US Government gather our best and brightest nuclear scientists to explore the possibilities of nuclear fission, the President acted. The top secret Manhattan Project needed a secure location to unlock the secrets hidden in the atom...Los Alamos was chosen. Research here led to the world’s first atomic bomb.
Our group visited the Bradbury Science Museum in town to experience the development of the Manhattan Project, the secrecy surrounding the town of Los Alamos, and the current mission of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Work today by some 11,000 LANL personnel is (quote) “dedicated to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of the US nuclear deterrent”. The Museum is as far as an “outsider” is permitted to go at LANL, but the historical significance and world impact of what has taken place here (and continues to be done) is overwhelming to those who visit Los Alamos.
It is hard to express the wonders of nature and science we experienced today.
Posted: Sat, 9 June 2012
SANTA FE and BIKING THE BANDELIER LOOP
We left Taos in the early afternoon of June 6 headed south to Santa Fe. We will spend 7 days here with Cris and Alan in a small adobe house we rented for the week. The house at 526 Agua Fria St. is a short walk to the Plaza, the State Capitol Building, and a multitude of shops and restaurants. It is a convenient location and a comfortable and attractive home. We are happy renters!
We decided to come to Santa Fe to celebrate Patti's 60th Birthday with friends. She and her husband Ron, who attended our wedding a year ago, planned the "Destination Party" and we wanted to join the celebration. Once committed to Santa Fe, quite naturally, we expanded the trip to 6 weeks...and included THE BIKES! So, here begins our "Summer Vacation"!
We stocked up with groceries, settled in at the house, and set off to the Plaza and a good green chile infused dinner at Guadaloupe Cafe.
Thursday, June 7 was dedicated to cycling, and of course the big birthday party at the deluxe Loretto Hotel just off the Plaza that evening.
Having checked in at the bike shop, and buying a Santa Fe Bicycle Route Guide, I had chosen a 30 mile ride called the "Bandelier Cruise" .... later named by us the "Bandelier Brute"! This was to be our first go of the trip combining ALTITUDE (8000 ft), CLIMBING in the mountains (10 miles of ascents), WIND at the higher altitudes, some unwanted traffic and 90 degree temperatures.
Joyce and I both finished the route, but suffered in the light air and strenuous climbs. Not a good ride choice probably for the first day, as we were beat at the finish, but very content to have completed the course; and what a scenic and varied
course it was.
Ironically, we started the ride in White Rock, NM (remember--we are going on the Whiterock Canyon Ride in Utah in a week). Near the start was a scenic overlook of the Rio Grande River Canyon. We made a 30 mile loop back to this location. The cue sheet said "the climbing begins--long and gradual--" for 10 miles to Los Alamos, NM. We were breathing heavily at the top when Joyce said, "Take a picture of that tree". I looked, saw it and noted that the tree was bare of needles, drooping, and dead. She said "That's what I feel like"! I agreed.
The worst was over, we were at the top of the mesa riding on "rollers" in the back area of Los Alamos, the super secret, fenced LANL (Los Alamos National Lab). Signs on the fence post read "KEEP OUT...EXPLOSIVES!". The road is lined in part with charred ponderosa pine; a reminder of the Cerro Grande fire in 2004. We stopped at a rest area in the forest for water and a break.
We passed the entrance of Bandelier National Park (more on visits to Bandelier and Los Alamos tomorrow). We rode through the red rock canyons and switchbacks, and sthe steep descent into Ancho Canyon...one of the coolest spots of the ride!
The book describes this ride as "one of the best loops in the State". It is the course for the annual bike race, "The Tour de Los Alamos", and is called by the race organizer, "One of the most unique and scenic places you can ever choose to ride".
We were very happy to have "pushed ourselves" and finished this ride! We are also pleased that tomorrow is a rest day while we tour the great attractions of this region.
Posted: Fri, 8 June 2012
TAOS...A TOWN WITH PERSONALITY!
The "magic", beauty, and laid back atmosphere of Taos completely won over these two travelling Floridians. We loved being here!
Leaving New Orleans on Sunday morning June 3rd we had two travel days ahead of us before reaching our first Southwest destinations of Taos and Santa Fe. Crossing Louisiana and Texas with overnight stops in Dallas and Amarillo meant long days on Interstate highways, accompanied by XM radio, books on tape ("Killing Lincoln") and 18 wheelers in the rear view mirror.
Taos, NM provided the perfect reward for long days on the road. Joyce and I loved the mountain air, and the small town resort setting at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The spectacular views of snow-capped peaks to the high desert mesa of sand and sage provide a beautiful backdrop to this ski and summer destination town of 6,000 relaxed citizens.
We arrived at the El Pueblo Lodge (highly recommended) on June 5th in time for lunch and a quick walk around town. We met our friends Brad and Trish from Naples for drinks and dinner that evening. They too are headed for Santa Fe and The Destination Birthday Party.
The ride to Taos after leaving I-25 and through Las Vegas, NM, and then up, up on the "high road to Taos" with its switchbacks and climbs was awesome! It is a "scenic byway" road I had considered for biking while here, but the blind corners and lack of even a narrow shoulder, as well as the heavy traffic nixed the idea. A car ride would have to do.
We were the first visitors at the Taos Pueblo, a UN World Heritage Site, on the morning of June 6th. For over 1,000 years the mud and straw adobe walls of the Taos Pueblo have sheltered Native Americans. This is the largest collection of multistory pueblo dwellings in the US...and is still being occupied by an active Pueblo Indian tribe. It is facinating to see how other cultures live and work.
Next stop, a bit further north, was the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge spanning the Rio Grande River 650 feet below. An immense, steep rock canyon has been created by the river flow, offering great photo ops and spectacular views of the gorge.
Taos Plaza, featuring pueblo architecture, is the town center bustling with shops and art galleries. It is a beautiful spot in a great and active town.
We will be back!
Posted: Sat, 2 June 2012
WHO DAT ---VISITING NEW ORLEANS?
We checked into our "room with a view" at the St Christopher Hotel in New Orleans on Friday afternoon, June 1. We had completed this second leg of our journey west after overnighting in Tallahassee on day 1.
Entering the city via the 24 mile Causeway Bridge across Lake Ponchatrain provided a scenic pathway into the "Big Easy".
Late on a sunny afternoon we walked the few short blocks into the French Quarter. At (Andrew) Jackson Square "Old Stonewall" sits astride his horse saluting the folks of New Orleans in his beautiful namesake park.
The majestic St Louis Cathedral, built in 1794, is located at the rear of the park. Beside the Cathedral is the building in which Napolean Bonaparte sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States for a mere 4 cents per acre.
For dinner we chose Mr B's Bistro, featuring creole specialties. I chose the signature entree: barbeque shrimp served in the shell. Delicious!
Saturday morning's guided City Tour by mini bus was exactly what we were after: a complete overview of the city. We visited the neighborhoods and sights of New Orleans, including the beautiful and wealthy Garden District, the devastated but recovering lower 9th Ward of Katrina fame, Storyville, the birthplace of ragtime music, City Park, and even the impoverished Central City "hood".
Joyce and I shared a lunch of a not to be missed local favorite called a "muffuletta". It is an Italian mega-sandwich served mainly in the French Market area.
Saturday evening at Preservation Hall Joyce and I enjoyed a jazz concert where some of the great hits of jazz music were played.
Just walking around New Orleans is a great pleasure. The party crowd on Bourbon St is loud and "wobbly" at all hours, the beat of the music is always pleasantly in the background. The architecture is different, creative and impressive. The food is delicious. No wonder they say "Let the good times roll'!
Posted: Mon, 14 May 2012
Whiterock Canyons: Utah Bike Tours
The Whiterock Canyons Ride is a challenging bicycle ride over 6 days and 350 miles in the remote, desert canyon-country of Southern Utah. It takes place in a region so spectacular that our cycling routes delve into 7 State or National Parks. Incredible scenery, car free roads and plenty of climbing, and a moonscape of rock cliffs and canyons await us in the Utah desert wilderness. The route is called "an impractical route of epic proportions" by Lizard Head Cycling Guides, who direct and support this ride. Join us in this adventure!